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13

 

Clare was not depressed by Tess's refusal feeling sure that she would finally accept him A few days later he asked her again

Tess why did you say no so positively?’

I'm not good enough.’

Not enough of a fine lady?’

Yes Your family would not respect me.’

You know you're wrongMy father and mother wouldAnd I don't care about my brothers.’He held her to stop her slipping away.‘You didn't mean it did you I can't work or read or play or anything until I know that you will some day be mine Say you willTess!’

She could only shake her head and look away

Then I ought not to hold you to talk to you like thisWhyTess?’

It is for your goodmy dearest I can't give myself the great happiness of promising to be yoursbecause I am sure I ought not to!’

But you will make me happy!’

Ah you think so but you don't know!’

After a struggle like this Tess would go to the fields or her room to cry Her heart was so strongly on the side of his that she feared she might give way

Why doesn't somebody tell him all about me?’she thought.‘It was only forty miles away Somebody must know!’But nobody knew and nobody told him

Tess's life now had two parts positive pleasure and positive pain Every time she and Angel were alone together he would ask her again and she would refuse She was keeping her promise to herself but in her heart of hearts Tess knew that eventually she would accept himLove and nature both advised her to have him without thinking of complications to delight in passion without considering future pain

I know I shall say yesI can't help it!’She cried to herself in bed one night.‘But it may kill him when he knows Oh oh!’

I've got some news for you all said Dairyman Crick as they sat down to breakfast one Sunday morning.‘It's that Jack Dollop again.’

The lover in the butterchurn?’ said Angel Clarelooking up from his newspaper.‘And has he married the young milkmaid as he promised?’

Not he sir,’replied the dairyman.‘He's married an older woman who had 50 a year They married in a great hurry and then she told him that by marrying she'd lost her50 a year He only married her for her money tooSo now they're always quarrelling.’

She ought to have told him just before they went to church,’ said Marian

She ought to have seen he only wanted her money and refused him,’said Retty

What do you say my dear the dairyman asked Tess

I think she ought to have told him the truthor else refused him I don't know,’ replied Tess who could not swallow her food She soon left the table and went into the fields feeling the pain in the story She had continued to refuse Angel's offers of marriage but from that Sunday he changed his approach towards herHe looked for her and came to talk to her at every possible moment at milking butter-making cheese-making among chickens and among pigsShe knew she could not resist much longer She loved him so passionately and he was so like a god in her eyes He treated her as if he would love and defend her under any circumstances This began to make her feel less afraid about agreeing to marry him and telling him the truth about herself

The days were shorter now and in the mornings the dairy worked by candlelightOne morning between three and four she ran up to Clare's room to wake him before waking the others Having dressed she was about to go downstairs when Angel came out of his room and stopped her

Now miss,’he said firmly.‘You must give me an answer or I shall have to leave the house You aren't safe with me I saw you just now in your nightdress Well Is it yes at last?’

I really will think seriously about itMr Clare.’

Call me Angel then and not Mr Clare Why not Angel dearest?’

It would mean I agree wouldn't it?’

It would only mean you love me and you did admit that long ago.’

Very well then Angel dearestif I must,’she murmuredsmiling Clare could not resist kissing her warm cheek

After milking and skimming all the dairy people went outside Tess generously tried for the last time to interest Angel in the other dairymaids

There's more in those three than you think she said

Any of them would make you a better wife than I could And perhaps they love you as much as I doalmost.’

Oh Tessy!’ he cried impatiently She was so relieved to hear this that she could not make any further self-sacrificeShe knew that this day would decide it

In the late afternoon Angel Clare offered to drive the waggon with its buckets of milk to the station He persuaded Tess to go with him

At first there was silence as they drove along the quiet roadsimply enjoying being close to each otherSoon drops of rain started fallingTess's cheeks were pink and her long hair was wetShe had no jacket and crept close to Clare She held an old piece of cloth over them both to keep the rain off

Well dear,’ said Angel,‘ what about my question?’

I'll answer you soon.’

Before we get home?’

I'll try.’

They passed an old house Angel explained that it was an interesting place which belonged to the ancient family of the dUrbervilles

It's very sad when a noble family dies out,’he said

Yes,’ said Tess

At last they reached the station and watched the milk being lifted on to the train Tess was fascinated

Londoners will drink it for breakfast won't they People who don't know we drove for miles in the rain so that it might reach them in time.’

That's true but we drove a little for our own reasons tooNow Tess,’ he said anxiously as they drove away into the night,‘your heart belongs to meWhy can't you give me your hand as well?’

My only reason is you I have something to tell youI must fell you about my past life!’

Tell me if you want to dearestI expect you have had as many experiences as that flower over there!’

I grew up in Marlott And at school they said I would make a good teacher But there was trouble in my familyFather didn't work very hard and he drank a little.’

Poor childThat's nothing new.’ He held her more closely to his side

And there is something unusual about me II am not a Durbeyfield but a dUrberville I'm a descendant of the same family who owned that house we passed.’

A dUrberville And is that the whole story Tess?’

Yes,’she answered faintly

Well why should I love you less because of that?’

The dairyman told me you hated old families.’

He laughed.‘Well I hate the idea that noble blood should be more important than anything else But I am really very interested in your news What do you think of it?’

I think it's sad especially here to see the fields which once belonged to my ancestors.’

So that's the awful secret!’

She had not told himAt the last moment she had not been brave enough

Angel was delighted.‘You seeTesssociety likes a noble nameand will accept you better as my wifebecause you are a dUrberville Even my mother will like you better You must use the name of dUrberville from this very day.’

I like the other name best.’

But you must By the way there's someone who has taken the dUrberville name near The Chase Yes he's the man who insulted my father How strange!’

Angel I would rather not take that name!’

Now thenTeresa dUrberville I've got youTake my name and you will escape yours!’

If it is sure to make you happy and you do wish to marry me very very much…’

I do dearest of courseSay you will be mine for ever!’

He held her and kissed her

Yes!’No sooner had she said it than she burst into a dry hard sobbing Angel was surprised

Why are you crying?’

I'm crying because I promised I would die unmarried OhI sometimes wish I had never been born!’

Tesshow could you wish that if you really loved meI wish you could prove your love in some way.’

Will this prove it more?’cried Tess desperately holding him close and kissing him For the first time Clare learnt what a passionate woman's kisses were like on the lips of one she loved with all her heart and soul as Tess loved him

Therenow do you believe?’she asked wiping her eyes

YesI never really doubtednever!’

They drove on in the darkness forming one bundle under the cloth

I must write to my mother,’she said

Of coursedear child Where does she live?’

In Marlott.’

Ahthen I have seen you before…’

Yes when you would not dance with me Oh I hope that doesn't mean bad luck!’

After this decision Tess wrote an urgent letter to her motherThis was the reply she received

Dear Tess

I hope you are well as I amWe are all glad to hear you are going to be married soonBut Tessin answer to your questionwhatever you dodon't tell your future husband anything about your past experienceNo girl would be so foolishespecially as it is so long agoand not your fault at allRemember you promised me you would never tell anybodyBest wishes to your young man

Love from your mother

Tess could not accept her mother's view of lifebut perhaps Joan was right in thisSilence seemed best for Angel's happinessSo she grew calmand from October onwards she was completely happyClare seemed the perfect guide thinkerand friendShe saw perfection in his facehis intelligence and his soulShe dismissed the past from her mind They spent all their time togetheras country people do once they are engagedIn the wonderful autumn afternoons they walked by streamscrossing on little wooden bridges They saw tiny blue fogs in the shadows of trees and hedges and at the same time bright sunshine in the fieldsThe sun was so near the ground that the shadows of Clare and Tess stretched a quarter of a mile ahead of themlike two long pointing fingersWhen Clare talked to Tess of their future and the farm they would have abroadshe could hardly believe that she would be going through the world by his sideHer feeling for him was now the breath and life of Tess's beingIt 152 made her forget her past sorrowsbut she knew they were waiting like wolves for their moment to attack

One day she cried out to Angel:‘Why didn't you stay and love me when I was sixteen when you danced in Marlott OhWhy didn't you?’

Ah yesIf only I had knownBut you must not regret so bitterlyWhy should you?’

Hiding her feelings quicklyshe said,‘I would have had four more years of your love than I can ever have now.’

They had to tell the dairyman and his wife that they were planning to marryThat night as Tess entered the bedroom all three dairymaids were waiting for her

You are going to marry him!’said Marian

Yessome day,’said Tess

Going to marry hima gentleman!’said Izz

It's strange,’said Marian,‘to think Tess will be his wife not a fine ladybut a girl who lives like us.’

Do you all hate me for it?’asked Tess in a low voice

I want to hate youbut I cannot!’said Retty

That's how I feel!’said Marian and Izz

He ought to marry one of you,’murmured Tess.‘You are all better than I am!’

Nonodear Tess,’they all said

I think I ought to make him marry one of you even now!’ she sobbedthey went up to her and calmed her and helped her to bedBefore they went to sleepMarian whispered,‘You will think of us when you are his wifeTessand how we did not hate youbecause we did not expect to be chosen by him.’

The girls did not know that Tess cried even more at this and that she decided she would tell Angel all her history

Because of thisshe would not set a date for the wedding She wanted to stay as she wasnot move forward into a new lifeBut soon it was clear that the dairyman did not want so many dairymaids at this time of yearTess would have to leave the dairy at Christmas

I'm afraid I'm glad of it,’said Angel to her,‘because now we must decide when to marryWe can't go on like this for ever.’

I wish we couldI wish it could be always summer and autumnwith you always loving me!’

I always shall.’

OhI know you willAngelI'll fix the day!’

So they decided on 31st DecemberThe wedding was to take place as privately as possible at the dairyTess now felt she could not stop things happeningand agreed passively to whatever Angel suggestedIn fact Angel's plans were a little hurriedHe had not meant to marry so soonBut he wanted to keep her with himto help her with her reading and studying so that he could present her proudly as a lady to his parents He also planned to spend some time studying work in a flour millThey could spend their honeymoon staying in the old farmhouse which had once belonged to the dUrbervilles while Angel studied at the mill nearby

The daythe impossible day of their weddingcame closer His wifeTess said to herselfCould it ever be

Angel and Tess decided to spend a day together shopping on Christmas EveThey went into town in a borrowed carriage The town was full of strangerswho stared at Tesshappy and beautiful on Angel's armAt the end of the dayTess was waiting for Angel to bring the horse and carriagewhen two men passed her in the street

She's a lovely maiden,’one said to his friend

She's lovelyyesBut she's no maidenreplied the other

Angel returned at that moment and heard these words Wildly angry at this insult to Tesshe hit the man in the face The man said quickly

I'm sorrysirI must have made a mistake.’

Angel accepted thisgave the man some moneysaid goodnightand drove off with TessThe two men went in the opposite direction

And was it a mistake?’asked the second man

Certainly not,’said his friend

On the way home Tess was very seriousShe felt she could not tell him the truth to his facebut there was another way So she went to her room and wrote a fourpage letter describing exactly what had happened three or four years ago In the night she crept up to Angel's room and pushed the letter under his door

Next morning she looked anxiously at himbut he kissed her as usualHe said nothing about the letterHad he read it Did he forgive her Every morning and night he was the same until finally the wedding day came

Tess had not invited her family from MarlottAngel had written to hisHis brothers had not repliedand his parents wrote that they hoped he was not hurrying into marriage but that he was old enough to decide for himselfAngel did not mindbecause he was planning to introduce Tess to them as a dUrberville as well as a dairymaidsome months later

Tess was still worried about her confessionand left the crowd of busy people downstairs to creep silently up to Angel's bedroomThere she found her letter unopenedjust under the carpetHe had not seen itShe could not let him read it now in the middle of the preparationsShe found him alone for a moment

I must confess all my mistakes to you!’she saidtrying to keep her words light

Not todaymy sweetWe'll have plenty of time later on I'll confess mine too.’

Then you really don't want me to?’

I don'tTessyreally.’

From now onher one desireto call him husbandand then if necessary to diecarried her onShe moved in a cloud

There were few people in the churchAt one point she let her shoulder touch Clare's armto be sure that he was really thereIt was only when she came out that she noticed the carriage they were driving back inShe felt she must have seen it in a dream

Ohmaybe you know the story of the dUrberville carriage,’said Angel,‘and this one reminds you of itIn the past a certain dUrberville committed a crime in his carriage and since then dUrbervilles see or hear the old carriage whenever But it's rather depressing to talk about.’

Is it when we are going to dieAngelor is it when we have committed a crime?’

NowTess!’He kissed herBut she had no energy left She was now Mrs Angel Clarebut wasn't she really Mrs Alexander dUrberville

Later that afternoon they left the dairyAll the dairy people watched them leaveand Clare kissed the dairymaids goodbye As he was thanking the dairymana cock crowed just in front of him

That's bad!’whispered the dairymen to each other When a cock crows at a husband like that…’and they laughed together behind their hands

Go away!’shouted Mr Crick at the cockLater he said to his wife,‘Why did it have to crow at Mr Clare like that?’

It only means a change in the weather,’said Mrs Crick not what you thinkThat's impossible.’

Tess and Angel arrived at the old dUrberville farmhouseIt was emptyalthough a woman came to cook and clean for themThey had their tea togetherand Clare delighted in eating from the same plate as TessLooking at her he thought,‘Do I realize how important I am to this woman And how I must look after herI must never forget to think about her feelings!’

It started to rain as it grew dark outsideFinally a man arrived from the dairy with their bags

I'm sorry I'm late sir,’he said,‘but terrible things have been happening at the dairy You remember the cock crowing Wellwhatever it meanspoor little Retty Priddle has tried to drown herself!’

What happened?’asked Angel

Wellafter you leftshe and Marian walked from one public house to anotherdrinkingRetty was found in the riverlater onAnd Marian was found drunk in a field!’

And Izz?’asked Tess

Izz is at home as usualbut very sad and depressed.’

As the man leftTess sat sadly by the firelooking into it They were simple innocent girls who had not been lovedIt was wicked of her to take all the love without paying for it She would payshe would tellthere and then

Angel was sitting beside herholding her handTheir faces were red in the firelight

This morning,’he said suddenly,‘ we said we would both confess our mistakesI must tell you something and you must forgive mePerhaps I ought to have told you beforeI've put off telling youbecause I didn't want to lose you.’

AngelI'm sure I'll forgive youA wild hope was making Tess's heart beat faster

Wellwait a minuteYou know how much I believe in goodness and purity But I myselfwhen I was in London years agodid wrong with a woman I hardly knewIt lasted two daysI came home and I have never done anything like it sinceDo you forgive me?’

Oh Angelof course I doAnd I am almost gladbecause now you can forgive meI have a confession too.’

Ah yeswell confessyou wicked little girlIt can hardly be more serious than mine.’

It can'tnoit can't!’She jumped up joyfully at the hope

Noin factit is just the sameI will tell you now.’

She sat down againThey held handsThe fire burned like a Judgement Day fireHer shadow rose high on the wall Putting her head against hisshe bravely told the whole story of her meeting with Alec dUrberville and its results

 


 

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